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What Career Paths Can You Pursue with a Sociology Degree?

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Deciding on a career path is harder now than it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the nationwide shutdown in 2020, many people pivoted their careers due to rampant furloughs and shifting perspectives on remote work. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 66% of people who lost their jobs during the pandemic reported wanting to change careers.

Students, too, have had to reevaluate their interests and career goals in response to industry trends. In light of the pandemic, many people have discovered a desire to help others or serve in a role that requires a high amount of human interaction.

Students with an interest in human interaction, particularly in the way people behave and think, often wind up in a sociology program. In Career Services, we’ve found that many of our students pursue a sociology degree because they do not have a clear career goal. But they understand that wherever they go, they want to interact with people and have an influence in others’ lives.

If you are unsure of your career goals but want to work with people or study human behavior and interaction, a sociology degree may be right for you.

Perform Research to Assess Your Interests and Narrow Your Scope

The first step in choosing any career is research. Because sociology is such a broad field and encompasses so many different industries, assessing your interests and narrowing your scope of focus is critical.

Sociology majors study social behavior and interactions. This knowledge can be useful when you’re working directly with people, but it can also be helpful when you’re developing products or services for people.

Knowing the type of work you want to do, who you want to serve, and whether you like working with people or independently helps you pinpoint a specific role to pursue. Follow these five steps to assess your interests and narrow down your scope:

  1. Evaluate your interests and preferred work environment. You can explore which job tasks you would enjoy doing by using O*NET’s Interest Profiler.
  2. Decide on the population you want to serve. For instance, would you rather work with children, adults or the elderly?
  3. Consider whether you want to work directly with people or behind the scenes. You can look into areas such as outreach, direct care, marketing and research.
  4. Determine your preferred industry. For instance, sociology majors could choose to pursue careers in nonprofit, business, government, education, healthcare or law enforcement.
  5. Identify your personality. Do you enjoy working with the community or do you prefer to sit in an office? Do you prefer human interaction or would you prefer to work independently?

Careers for Sociology Majors to Research

Once you have evaluated your interests, take some time to explore applicable industries and careers. Pay attention to the education and experience requirements necessary for specific roles.

Here are a few industries and applicable job titles to explore if you have a bachelor’s degree in sociology:

  • Community and Social Services: Human Service Assistant, Case Manager and Housing Coordinator
  • Health Services: Community Health Worker, Family Support Specialist and Intake Specialist
  • Law: Probation Officer, 911 Dispatcher and Corrections Officer
  • Higher Education: Admissions Representative, Advisor and Administrator
  • Business: Communications Assistant, Marketing Specialist and Relationship Banker
  • Government: Census Worker, Special Agent and Legislative Aide

For students interested in graduate school, there are several great careers worth checking out.  Investigate these industries and applicable job titles if you’re interested in obtaining a master’s degree in sociology:

  • Research: Sociologist, Survey Researcher, Social Research Methodologist and Social Scientist
  • Higher Education: College Professor, Financial Aid Director and Director of Alumni Affairs

For some job titles, such as Marketing Specialist or Corrections Officer, you may need further education, training, or experience to meet job requirements. Be sure to thoroughly research your chosen profession before you chart your next steps.

Consider a Career as a Social Science Researcher

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), life, physical and social science occupations are projected to grow 5% from 2019 to 2029. Social science researchers have become a necessity in the wake of the pandemic, as they are responsible for studying the societal effects of the pandemic and strategizing ways to rebuild society.

Social science researchers worldwide are assisting in gathering data and reporting on how the pandemic may affect countries for years to come. They are also responsible for providing recommendations for epidemiologists and public health experts. Research areas for social science researchers could include the effects of COVID-19 on incarcerated individuals, economic recovery, mental health and civil liberties.

If you want to pursue a career as a social science researcher, you will likely need a master’s degree or Ph.D. in the field you want to research. This role will require you to not only conduct research, but also perform experiments and write studies. You will need to produce numerical results that provide solutions and deliver insight into a variety of industries.

Extensive experience and specific hard and soft skills are often required for social science researchers. To gain hands-on experience, become an assistant social researcher or volunteer in a research facility. In addition, getting experience will help you develop these skills that are especially useful for social science researchers:

But social science research is just one career you can pursue with a sociology degree. Research trending career fields in your local county or state to pinpoint rapidly growing industries and which populations they serve to determine your next career move.

Gaining Industry-Specific Experience and Skills

While searching for open positions, you may find that education alone is not enough to land the role you’re pursuing. Though a job may not require a certification or licensure, it often requires relevant experience and skills.

Through the University’s online bachelor of arts in sociology program, you’ll acquire desirable soft skills that will prove useful for a variety of careers. It’s also important to continue building those skills outside of the classroom through volunteer projects or by working with a mentor.

While employers generally seek candidates with a variety of soft skills, they also look for people with hands-on experience and the hard skills gained through that experience. Hands-on experience lets you apply your academic knowledge in a professional setting and develop the required industry skills.

Ideally, you should research 10-15 job descriptions to identify the skills, education and experience you’ll need to pursue a career in sociology. Use the job descriptions to help you identify academic and professional areas that need improvement.

The job market is competitive. To gain experience and hone your skills, consider becoming an intern, volunteer or part-time worker. Another option is shadowing – temporarily working alongside someone who’s already in that field.

Look for opportunities to gain industry experience that allows you to work with the population you’re targeting. For instance, if you want to work for a nonprofit to raise money for homeless children, research opportunities with local children’s charities, seek fundraising opportunities, or connect with local homeless shelters or donations/outreach departments.

Work with a Career Coach to Map Your Next Steps

If you have a passion for helping others, desire to work hands-on with specific population groups, or have an interest in human behavior and interaction, a sociology degree may be the right choice for you. To find the career that suits you best, you will need to explore your capabilities, interests, experience and values alongside your education.

If you are a current University student or alumni, Career Services is here to assist you as you determine your career goals and take steps to achieve them. Sometimes, identifying your skills, interests and goals can be difficult. Connect with a Career Coach by emailing CareerServices@apus.edu for our guidance on your career journey!

Taylor Sparber graduated from Shepherd University in 2017 with a bachelor's in social work and a concentration in psychology. She began her career in higher education working for the Student Life Department at Lord Fairfax Community College, which led to her work as a Disabilities Fellow for Shenandoah University. Taylor currently works in the Career Services Department as a Career Coach for STEM students, where she strives to build strong relationships with both current students and alumni. Taylor enjoys supporting students and alumni by teaching them job search strategies and helping them find value in their skills and experiences.

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